Training camp is underway with all 32 NFL teams fully reporting to their facilities. From all eyes on Deshaun Watson in Cleveland to the quarterback battle between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, here are storylines to keep an eye on for the AFC division as training camp progresses and the new season approaches.
The AFC East is led by the Buffalo Bills, who finished with an 11-6 record. They signed Von Miller in March and have Josh Allen ready to make an MVP push this year. The Bills have Devin Singletary as the starting running back but with his inconsistency that could change. The Bills have a crowded backfield with rookie James Cook, veterans Duke Johnson and Zack Moss to go along with Singletary. The real question for the Bills is, will they be able to make it to the Super Bowl?
The Miami Dolphins also had a big addition, trading for Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs during the offseason. Now that the Dolphins have provided quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with more weapons, the hope is that he is able to prove himself as a consistent starting quarterback in the NFL. However, the offensive line needs to improve if they want Tua to succeed.
The Dolphins have no definitive starter at the running back position. Chase Edmonds seems to be the favorite to be the starter but the team still has Myles Gaskin, Sony Michel, and Raheem Mostert all on the depth chart as well. Another factor to consider is whether new coach Mike McDaniel can lead this team to success.
New England Patriots
For the New England Patriots, Mac Jones led them to the playoffs as a rookie last season. Jones will look to improve from last season. The addition of wide receiver DeVante Parker may prove to be helpful as well. Losing Dont’a Hightower and J.C. Jackson on the defense is something to keep in my mind too. Hightower played over 50% of the team’s defensive snaps. Linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson will try to fill that void.
New York Jets
The New York Jets have a second-year coach and second-year quarterback trying to make big leaps in the AFC East from the previous season. The Jets helped themselves a lot by having a great draft this year. Most notably drafting cornerback Sauce Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson. The Jets have questions at the starting free safety position. Lamarcus Joyner seems to be the favorite but Ashtyn Davis could see some time on the field as well.
In the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals are trying to make their way back to the Super Bowl. Joe Burrow was sacked 51 times last season. The team added some offensive line protection for Burrow which should help. At the guard position, Jackson Carman and Cordell Volson will be competing for a starting spot, with Carman as the current front runner. The Bengals seem to be improved on paper, now can it all come together again during the season?
The Browns made a controversial trade for star quarterback Deshaun Watson in March. The trade obviously upset Browns former starting quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was eventually traded to the Carolina Panthers. The Browns also lost Jarvis Landry to the New Orleans Saints during the offseason but gained Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys.
The Browns need more help from the defensive tackle position this season. They have Jordan Elliott, Taven Bryan, Sheldon Day, Tommy Togiai, and Perrion Winfrey all in the mix to see playing time. The Browns main concern will be how long of a suspension Watson will receive. Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett may have to start a few games in the beginning of the season depending on Watson’s suspension.
The Baltimore Ravens focus is the health of star quarterback Lamar Jackson. When he’s healthy the team has Super Bowl potential. Losing wide receivers Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals through a trade and Sammy Watkins to the Green Bay Packers does hurt them. The team will now look for production from wide receivers Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, and Tylan Wallace. Bateman looks to be the team’s number one wide receiver. With a great coach like John Harbaugh and dual threat quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are trying to make another run at the postseason.
The Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback of the past 17 seasons Ben Roethlisberger retired, leaving the team with a void at the starter position. The Steelers drafted Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and signed quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Both those guys and Mason Rudolph will be battling it out for the starting quarterback position. The Steelers at this time have Trubisky as a safe starter option, Pickett with a lot of potential, and Rudolph there as well. The team also lost wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs but they drafted Georgia wide receiver George Pickens to fill in the gap.
In the AFC South, the Indianapolis Colts traded for veteran quarterback Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons and traded Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders. The Colts biggest defensive addition was cornerback Stephon Gilmore. They lost a few notable offensive players, T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, Zach Paschal, then Jack Doyle to retirement. The Colts rely on a good offensive line for their great rushing attack and quarterback protection. At left tackle, Matt Pryor played last season and is the favorite to start but rookie Bernhard Raimann may be slight competition for him.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping second year quarterback Trevor Lawrence has a breakout season under new head coach Doug Pederson. The team added wide receivers Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, as well as tight end Evan Engram during this offseason. Running back Travis Entienne missed his entire rookie season last year with a foot injury and looks to bounce back. At the right tackle position, there is competition between Walker Little and Jawaan Taylor to see who will be the starter. Taylor has seen snaps at the position before, while Little would have to make the switch from left to right tackle. After a rough first year under Urban Meyer, the Jaguars are expecting to not be last in the AFC South with Pederson.
The Houston Texans traded Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor signed with the New York Giants. That makes Davis Mills the official starting quarterback again. The team also re-signed wide receivers Chris Conley and Brandin Cooks. The team has a few issues and questions. The main one addressed was pressuring the opposing quarterback.
The team added Mario Addison, Rasheem Green, Jerry Hughes, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to help with this problem. With these additions, now the wait is to see who performs best during training camp to secure the starting role. The Texans are moving into a new era and the pressure is on for new head coach Lovie Smith to lead the team to success.
Leading the AFC South, the Titans lost star running back and former offensive player of the year Derrick Henry to a foot injury in week 8 of the season last year. Henry returned in the playoffs for the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, where they lost 19-16. During the offseason, the Titans traded former pro bowl wide receiver AJ Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles and decided not to re-sign veteran wide receiver Julio Jones.
The team traded for wide receiver Robert Woods from the Los Angeles Rams and drafted wide receiver Treylon Burks in the first round of the NFL Draft. The Titans lost their best ranked lineman David Quessenberry to the Buffalo Bills during free agency and now look for a new starter on their offensive line. Right now the starting position is a battle between Jamarco Jones and Dillon Radunz. Tennessee also drafted the #1 ranked quarterback Malik Willis in the 3rd round. If Ryan Tannehill has a few bad games, Malik Willis may get the opportunity to play.
The AFC West may have become the best, if not one of the best divisions in the NFL and this is because of many offseason moves that were made, especially for the Denver Broncos. The Broncos traded quarterback Drew Lock, some draft picks, and players to the Seattle Seahawks for star quarterback Russell Wilson. The team has a great cast of wide receivers in Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and Courtland Sutton. There is competition for the starting right tackle spot between Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton and Billy Turner. The team will also have a shared backfield once again with running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams each getting carries. With a new star quarterback in Russell Wilson, there are high expectations for the Broncos this season.
Los Angeles Chargers
Also a powerhouse in the AFC West, the Los Angeles Chargers made moves to improve their defense during the offseason, with the additions of former All-Pros, cornerback J.C. Jackson and linebacker Khalil Mack. Justin Herbert has played his way into the discussion of being a top 10 quarterback in the NFL. The team has done well to protect Herbert but still has concerns at the right tackle spot. Storm Norton had a rough season, allowing nine sacks. Norton now will be in a competition for the starter role with Trey Pipkins. The Chargers just missed the playoffs last season but now will look to make their way there this season.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs were just one win away from reaching the Super Bowl for the third straight year. The Chiefs traded star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. They lost a defensive leader when safety Tyrann Mathieu signed with the New Orleans Saints. However, Kansas City signed wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantlin, and drafted wide receiver Skyy Moore in the second round. The team is thin at options for starting cornerback after losing Charvarius Ward. The Chiefs will now look to Deandre Baker, Rashad Fenton, and rookie Trent McDuffie to take snaps at the position.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders made a big move trading for Green Bay Packers star wide receiver Davante Adams. They also signed star defensive end Chandler Jones. The addition of Adams should help quarterback Derek Carr. The Raiders had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. The team has two spots open on their offensive line. They have many options including Jermaine Eluemunor, Denzelle Good, Alex Leatherwood, Dylan Parham, Brandon Parker, and John Simpson all in the mix for offensive line openings. The Raiders look to make the playoffs again this season but this time make it past the wildcard round.